For the week ending 9 February 2008 / 3 Adar I 5768

Happy Birthday!

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: When members of my family or friends have a birthday and I sincerely wish to take note of the occasion, I find it rather prosaic to just wish them "Happy Birthday" or even worse joining in singing "For he's a jolly good fellow". What is the right thing to do?

Answer: You are certainly correct both in your appreciation of the need to offer some expression and in your distaste for the prosaic manner in which most people do so.

When someone has a birthday it inevitably raises his consciousness to the fact that he is year closer to the end of his life. It is therefore customary to wish him a long life ("until 120 years") filled with success and happiness. The prosaic "Happy Birthday" which is at best a good wish for a single day is thus replaced with an important blessing for a lifetime.

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